Five things Central Michigan can do to beat New Hampshire in home opener on Saturday

The Central Michigan football team that arrived in Ann Arbor last Saturday is very different from the one that will be taking the field against New Hampshire. Cody Kater and Zurlon Tipton suffered serious injuries in the 59-9 loss to Michigan, as Tipton broke his ankle and Kater his clavicle. This has opened an opportunity for Alex Niznak and Saylor Lavallii to step into key roles in Dan Enos‘ offense.

And while New Hampshire is going to be overlooked by the untrained eye, this will be nothing close to an easy task for Central. Coming in as the No. 11 ranked team in the FCS and coming off of its record-setting ninth straight playoff appearance, the Wildcats are a serious threat to hand the Chippewas their second loss in as many games. Not only does New Hampshire hold the record for consecutive playoff appearances but they have also been ranked in the top 25 for 126 straight weeks, another FCS record.

With all of the praise for New Hampshire, Central Michigan can beat the Wildcats.

Here are five reasons why and how:

No. 1 – Saylor Lavallii is fully capable of taking over this offense. 

Lavallii is not Tipton but as he showed against Michigan, he is a very talented back. He may be short at 5’9″ but he is no little guy running the ball; weighing in at 213 pounds. Central Michigan has a talented, experienced and large offensive line. Instead of trying to beat the defense with his running ability and strength, Lavallii needs to hide behind his big maulers and let them clear a path for him.

Left tackle Jake Olsen is 11 inches taller than Lavallii. That’s a very large and intimidating cloaking device.

No. 2 – Alex Niznak gives the offense another layer.

Losing Kater would have been a bigger problem if it had happened later on in the season. There was already a quarterback controversy so the first team offense was only a week removed from working with Niznak.

Niznak’s roll-out ability creates opportunities not only in the running game but also in the passing game. Titus Davis is one of the most talented receivers in the Mid-American Conference and he needs to show why. Niznak’s legs will give Davis more time to get open, and his powerful arm will also put Davis in some big play situations.

If those two can mesh, this team can still find a way to contend in the MAC.

No. 3 – Central returns to a familiar environment.

Playing at Michigan Stadium will be something that these players will never forget, but the experience put the team into uncharted waters. There were 112,618 fans in attendance last Saturday and no matter what happens this season, Central will not experience anything like that.

The biggest crowd that Kelly-Shorts Stadium has ever seen was 35,127, which obviously is a big difference. Playing at home will add a level of comfort for Central Michigan and a more confident team should take the field on Saturday. Eliminating distractions will be a good thing for a team who must search for a new identity.

No. 4 – Keep forcing turnovers.

Believe it or not, Central Michigan forced three turnovers (all interceptions) against Michigan. With that said, New Hampshire quarterback Andy Vailas only threw three interceptions a year ago. Obviously takeaways will be a deciding factor in the game.

The Wildcats had the No. 15 rushing attack in the FCS last season, so if Central Michigan can get an early lead and make New Hampshire throw the ball, they should be able to hang onto a lead.

No. 5 – Must fight adversity and show toughness.

No athlete likes losing but getting beat 59-9 on national television and in front of 112,618 fans had to be extremely hard to swallow. If Central Michigan can put the Michigan game out of mind and win this game against New Hampshire, that’s all the healing they’ll need.

Getting back to 1-1 is very important because after New Hampshire the schedule only gets tougher. This is not the time to dwell on the past; Central can show that they are not to be taken lightly. Coming out in impressive fashion on Saturday will do just that.

Photo by Brittni Hengesbach